Chrysler trumpets shared design with Fiat as Chrysler 200 debuts

Mon Jan 13, 2014 12:14am EST
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By Bernie Woodall

DETROIT (Reuters) - The Chrysler 200 mid-sized sedan to be rolled out this week at the Detroit auto show will be the third model built on the same European-based vehicle architecture by Chrysler Group LLC, as the company moves forward with a design strategy focused on slashing development times and costs.

Chrysler and its Italian parent, Fiat SpA FIA.MI, are playing catch-up with other global automakers such as crosstown rivals General Motors Co (GM.N: Quote) and Ford Motor Co (F.N: Quote) in developing cost-cutting shared architectures.

And with mid-sized sedans being the largest segment of the car market, the new Chrysler 200 will come under sharp scrutiny.

Chrysler's platform-sharing effort began in earnest shortly after its 2009 bankruptcy, when the company came under control of Fiat and Fiat's chief executive, Sergio Marchionne.

The 2015 Chrysler 200 is the latest Chrysler model and fifth in the Fiat-Chrysler fold to share vehicle architecture. The platform was first used for the Alfa Romeo Giulietta. Then came the Dodge Dart, the first car jointly designed by Fiat and Chrysler, then the Fiat Viaggio made and sold in China, and most recently the Jeep Cherokee SUV.

By 2016, when Fiat and Chrysler are expected to have merged into a single company, more than 1 million vehicles are expected to have been built off the architecture, including some models not yet given the green light for production, said Mark Chernoby, who is in charge of engineering and product planning for Chrysler.

The 200 has had the smoothest path to production of any of the vehicles on what Chrysler calls its compact U.S.-wide architecture, Chernoby said.

"This is one of the huge values of common architectures," he said.   Continued...

Snow surrounds the Chrysler logo displayed on a vehicle in the parking lot at Bill Snethkamp dealership in Detroit, Michigan January 2, 2014. REUTERS/Joshua Lott